In Defense of Summer Reading Freedom

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I am a huge fan of reading.  And a huge fan of summer.

But I am not a fan of Summer Reading Requirements for kids.

That’s not to say I don’t think kids should read in the summer time.  I do.  At my house, you’ll find us all settling in with our books & sweaty glasses of iced lemonade at about the same time every afternoon.  So if that’s your idea of a summer reading program, then forget what I said about not being a fan.  It’s that other kind of Summer Reading I’m talking about.  The kind with capital letters and mandatory lists.

I’m a teacher, so I understand the reasons that some schools hand out lists of what has to be read over the summer months.  They have to do with testing and accountability and achievement gaps and the list goes on and on. But I think there are much more compelling reasons for schools to keep their standardized noses out of kids’ summer reading.

  • One-size-fits-all lists are a recipe for failure.  Kids in the same grade read at wildly different reading levels, and handing them all the same book as required reading is like giving them all the same size sneakers, no matter how big their feet might be. There is no “perfect book” for seventh graders or for tenth graders or fifth graders.  Not even the one that the teacher loves so much.  The reality is that any one-size-fits-all book requirement is going to be too easy or too little for some kids, too much and too difficult for others.  If our goal is to create readers, this is not the way to go about it.
  • People have rights as readers.  Think about it.  You’re probably looking forward to some summer reading yourself, right?  I’ll bet you have some titles in mind, and I’ll bet that some books will pop up over the next few months, too — books that your friends recommend or books you read about online.  But wait….  On June 24th, someone gives you a list.  “This is what you’ll be reading this summer,” they say. “Okay?”
No.  Not okay.  Not even if it’s a list of, say, twenty titles and I get to pick any five I want.  Twenty titles? Out of all the books in the world?  I get to choose from these twenty?  Really?
  • Summer is a time when our kids actually have the luxury of extra reading time, and if they’re passionate about what they’re reading, they can read for hours on end.  We can’t do that in school (as much as it’s a lovely thought).  But summer readers only show that kind of passion when they have choices.  As teachers — and parents — we need to respect those choices.
I live in a fairly small community, and sometimes, parents approach me in the dentists’ office or the waiting room at ballet lessons to talk about concerns over their kids’ reading.

“I’ve been wanting to talk with you about Jane,” they’ll whisper, leaning forward as if they’re about to confess her addiction to heroin.  “She reads those…those….Clique books. What should I do?”

“Get the rest of the series for her,” I’ll say.  “The library has all of them.”

I’ve had this conversation more times than I can count, with slight variations.  You can substitute graphic novels, Gossip Girls, R.L. Stine, Manga, or any number of books that kids love, that their parents have judged as less than literary.  And sure…there’s an argument that those books are the crack of the reading world.  But guess what?  An addiction to reading is what we’re after here.  And rabid, passionate reading can mean huge growth for kids’ literacy. I was reminded of that this week, grading my English final exam, a reflective essay in which students discuss their growth as readers.  One student wrote:

I used to read mega-slow, and by mega, I mean ultra-mega slow. But then I picked up the Clique series and it’s like everything changed. I couldn’t put down that book at all. So I kept reading and then I noticed I was reading at least 60 pages in one class period.

That’s what we in the education world call fluency.  And it’s an essential element of literacy — one that we can’t always develop as well as we’d like in the classroom because it takes time.  Lots and lots of time reading books that kids love. Books that might or might not be on that Summer Reading list with the capital letters.

So what’s the alternative?  If you don’t send home a list of classics and give a test in the fall, how will you know kids are reading?  Well…you won’t.  But the truth is that half of them aren’t reading that list of classics anyway, so there’s not all that much to lose by going with a more progressive summer reading model.  Ask parents to commit to a daily reading time at home.  Teach kids how to request the newest YA titles through inter-library loan.  And if you really like lists, what about letting kids make their own, based on your suggestions and recommendations from classmates?

There are some great summer reading idea lists floating around – here’s one that Josie Leavitt over at ShelfTalker pulled together from reader suggestions after lamenting the state of summer reading lists. And here’s a list of recommendations from  at Not-Your-Mother’s-Book-Club.

And one more…courtesy of my students.  I love teacher Cindy Faughnan‘s end-of-the-year assignment and stole it last year to use with my own 7th graders.  I use their suggestions of “The One Book to Read This Summer” to make a list of recommendations that I send home in their portfolios.

Deadly Little Secret by Laurie Faria Stolarz
Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen
The Kingdom Keepers by Ridley Pearson
Three Willows
by Anne Brashares
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Right Behind You by Gail Giles
The Wizard Heir by Cinda Williams Chima
Fear Street Series by R.L. Stine
Code Orange by Caroline Cooney
American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang
The Magic of Xanth by Piers Anthony
Uglies by Scott Westerfield
Fools Gold by Jude Fisher
Marked by P.C. & Kristen Cast
The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod by Heather Brewer
The Land of the Silver Apples by Nancy Farmer
Ranger’s Apprentice by John Flanagan
Cryptid Hunters by Roland Smith
Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry & Ridley Pearson
The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams
Interworld by Neil Gaiman
Among the Brave by Margaret Peterson Haddix
Song of the Sparrow by Lisa Ann Sandell
One of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies by Sonya Sones
Click Here to See How I Survived 7th Grade by Denise Vega
The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
Here Today by Ann M. Martin
Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson
Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
The Named by Marrianne Curley
Animorphs by K.A. Applegate
Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin
The Clique Series by Lisi Harrison
Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Anne Brashares
Freaky Green Eyes by Joyce Carol Oates
The Black Tattoo by Sam Anthoven
So Hard to Say by Alex Sanchez
My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult
The Ivy Chronicles by Karen Quinn
Maximum Ride by James Paterson
Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr
Inkheart by Cornelia Funke
Schooled by Gordon Korman
Tunnels and Deeper by Roderick Gordon

It’s a mighty diverse list, I know.  They’re a diverse group of kids.  Would any one of these books work for all of them?  I can think of a few that might work well as a class read-aloud, but not as an independent summer read.  Kids need choices.

 
 
I hope your summer is filled with icy lemonade and great books — that you choose for yourself.

101 Replies on “In Defense of Summer Reading Freedom

  1. I hate being told what to read and I’m even having a hard time getting through some of the books chosen for my 10-year-old’s mother-daughter book club.

  2. I hate being told what to read and I’m even having a hard time getting through some of the books chosen for my 10-year-old’s mother-daughter book club.

  3. Thank you! We also have a “summer reading time” every afternoon, where everybody settles in for 30 minutes or an hour or two, whatever they choose. But the last two summers this has been marred by summer reading lists. Last summer I dragged my ninth grade son through SNOW IN AUGUST (which my adult book club had read and loved several years before, but was a tough choice for a ninth grader). This summer I have to do it again with Son #2, plus ILLUSTRATED MAN, plus Son #1 has to do FREEDOM WRITERS (a little better, but still not his choice). ICK!

  4. Thank you! We also have a “summer reading time” every afternoon, where everybody settles in for 30 minutes or an hour or two, whatever they choose. But the last two summers this has been marred by summer reading lists. Last summer I dragged my ninth grade son through SNOW IN AUGUST (which my adult book club had read and loved several years before, but was a tough choice for a ninth grader). This summer I have to do it again with Son #2, plus ILLUSTRATED MAN, plus Son #1 has to do FREEDOM WRITERS (a little better, but still not his choice). ICK!

  5. If only evey school system would read your post and get it! I was actually one of those parents. My kids wanted to read the books based on TV shows and I said no. I SO regret that now as they’re both below reading level, and find it difficult to find books they like. The baby will get to read anything she wants. LOL

  6. If only evey school system would read your post and get it! I was actually one of those parents. My kids wanted to read the books based on TV shows and I said no. I SO regret that now as they’re both below reading level, and find it difficult to find books they like. The baby will get to read anything she wants. LOL

  7. Agreed – but at least with a book club it’s still a choice of whether or not to read. Summer reading time has so much potential to really make kids LOVE reading – I hate seeing that wasted.

  8. Agreed – but at least with a book club it’s still a choice of whether or not to read. Summer reading time has so much potential to really make kids LOVE reading – I hate seeing that wasted.

  9. I think you make a great point – it’s not that the books on the summer reading lists are “bad books” in any way — just that they might not be the right books at the right time for a particular kid. There’s a boatload of research that shows that right-book-right-time issue is the real engine behind lifelong reading, and I think so many of these summer reading programs miss the boat on that.

  10. I think you make a great point – it’s not that the books on the summer reading lists are “bad books” in any way — just that they might not be the right books at the right time for a particular kid. There’s a boatload of research that shows that right-book-right-time issue is the real engine behind lifelong reading, and I think so many of these summer reading programs miss the boat on that.

  11. The TV show thing is tough, and I totally understand your reasons for resisting. I guess the thing to remember is that if a kid learns to love reading, eventually he/she runs out of tv show books or Babysitter Club books or Clique books and will find new directions.

  12. The TV show thing is tough, and I totally understand your reasons for resisting. I guess the thing to remember is that if a kid learns to love reading, eventually he/she runs out of tv show books or Babysitter Club books or Clique books and will find new directions.

  13. Bravo, Kate! I wish you had been my teacher!

    When I was a beginning reader, I used to count how many pages I read as I read them until… I started to read magic books. Then, just like your Clique series reader, I was too busy turning pages to count.

  14. Bravo, Kate! I wish you had been my teacher!

    When I was a beginning reader, I used to count how many pages I read as I read them until… I started to read magic books. Then, just like your Clique series reader, I was too busy turning pages to count.

  15. Well said.

    I hate how, even though adults read for fun all the time, we still have this assumption that every single book a kid reads, they have to read because it’s good for them.

    I wonder if I’d even be a reader if I’d realized it was good for me, instead of fun and an escape and something I loved to do …

  16. Well said.

    I hate how, even though adults read for fun all the time, we still have this assumption that every single book a kid reads, they have to read because it’s good for them.

    I wonder if I’d even be a reader if I’d realized it was good for me, instead of fun and an escape and something I loved to do …

  17. I.LOVE.THIS

    And i totally agree. Standardized tests are destroying reading novel-length fiction for pleasure during the school year; now they want to do the same to summer! As someone with a vested interest in an ongoing supply of pleasure readers, I say right on.

  18. I.LOVE.THIS

    And i totally agree. Standardized tests are destroying reading novel-length fiction for pleasure during the school year; now they want to do the same to summer! As someone with a vested interest in an ongoing supply of pleasure readers, I say right on.

  19. I agree

    I teach English and this has been an ongoing argument in my department. Students need choices. The purpose of summer reading is to keep kids reading and keep their brains working. It is not to force the classics down their throats.

  20. I agree

    I teach English and this has been an ongoing argument in my department. Students need choices. The purpose of summer reading is to keep kids reading and keep their brains working. It is not to force the classics down their throats.

  21. Exactly…Have you ever heard a passionate reader say, “Well…I remember the book that made me love reading. It was on the mandatory summer list the year I turned 11…” ?? Me neither.

  22. Exactly…Have you ever heard a passionate reader say, “Well…I remember the book that made me love reading. It was on the mandatory summer list the year I turned 11…” ?? Me neither.

  23. Re: I.LOVE.THIS

    Thanks, Cinda! (And thanks for the gift of your writing, too – your books were mentioned more than once in our end-of-the-year essay as books that made a difference.)

  24. Re: I.LOVE.THIS

    Thanks, Cinda! (And thanks for the gift of your writing, too – your books were mentioned more than once in our end-of-the-year essay as books that made a difference.)

  25. Re: I agree

    We’ve been back & forth in our department, too. Our high school sends home a lengthy list of required reading (students choose a certain number of titles based on grade level). This year, they added a final line to the list that says “or any other book you choose.”

  26. Re: I agree

    We’ve been back & forth in our department, too. Our high school sends home a lengthy list of required reading (students choose a certain number of titles based on grade level). This year, they added a final line to the list that says “or any other book you choose.”

  27. This is a great post. I LOVE: “And sure…there’s an argument that those books are the crack of the reading world. But guess what? An addiction to reading is what we’re after here. And rabid, passionate reading can mean huge growth for kids’ literacy.”

    Cheers for Gateway books! Thanks for an excellent post in defense of the right kind of summer reading.

  28. This is a great post. I LOVE: “And sure…there’s an argument that those books are the crack of the reading world. But guess what? An addiction to reading is what we’re after here. And rabid, passionate reading can mean huge growth for kids’ literacy.”

    Cheers for Gateway books! Thanks for an excellent post in defense of the right kind of summer reading.

  29. Here via , and as a former full-time classroom teacher, YES. Yesyesyes. I have really resented the intrusion of required summer reading lists–and talk to me sometime about the argument I had with a friend about whether it was a good idea to include Harry Potter in the curriculum (I came down on the side of “not”–let them have fun with it, let them discover it, let them think they’re doing something daring and subversive by reading it–they’ll be MORE likely to read it that way).

    I also did the student-generated list with my fourth graders. I always found something new and fun to read myself.

    Great post!

  30. Here via , and as a former full-time classroom teacher, YES. Yesyesyes. I have really resented the intrusion of required summer reading lists–and talk to me sometime about the argument I had with a friend about whether it was a good idea to include Harry Potter in the curriculum (I came down on the side of “not”–let them have fun with it, let them discover it, let them think they’re doing something daring and subversive by reading it–they’ll be MORE likely to read it that way).

    I also did the student-generated list with my fourth graders. I always found something new and fun to read myself.

    Great post!

  31. Creating Summer Lists – from students

    Kate – I love your idea of creating summer reading lists from students. I had my students recommend a book for summer reading, then I organized the lists (into type of books, like fantasy, animal book, realistic fiction) to send home. The final step, was I had them check the books they’d already read and then talk to their classmates about books they were interested in. At the end of the period, they had 2 or 4 books starred that they wanted to read this summer.

    It had a wonderful effect of making each kid an “expert” sharing a book they liked. I loved seeing a bunch of the voracious readers really interested in reading a book suggested by a more reluctant reader – he felt pretty darn good giving one of the popular suggestions.

  32. Creating Summer Lists – from students

    Kate – I love your idea of creating summer reading lists from students. I had my students recommend a book for summer reading, then I organized the lists (into type of books, like fantasy, animal book, realistic fiction) to send home. The final step, was I had them check the books they’d already read and then talk to their classmates about books they were interested in. At the end of the period, they had 2 or 4 books starred that they wanted to read this summer.

    It had a wonderful effect of making each kid an “expert” sharing a book they liked. I loved seeing a bunch of the voracious readers really interested in reading a book suggested by a more reluctant reader – he felt pretty darn good giving one of the popular suggestions.

  33. Here, here! To everything you said.

    Another one of those conversations.
    Other parent, “My child doesn’t like reading.”
    Me: “Hand them Captain Underpants.”

    🙂

  34. Here, here! To everything you said.

    Another one of those conversations.
    Other parent, “My child doesn’t like reading.”
    Me: “Hand them Captain Underpants.”

    🙂

  35. Great post, Kate! You know I agree with you!

    I’m glad you’re using that assignment. It’s one of my kids’ favorite things. I have new students who arrive and say they stole their older brother or sister’s copy to find good books to read. My 42 seventh graders picked 42 different books this year. They are diverse!

  36. Great post, Kate! You know I agree with you!

    I’m glad you’re using that assignment. It’s one of my kids’ favorite things. I have new students who arrive and say they stole their older brother or sister’s copy to find good books to read. My 42 seventh graders picked 42 different books this year. They are diverse!

  37. I LOVE reading. I want my students to love reading. I’m torn about summer reading requirements. I carefully chose the books on the list, trying to include a wide variety- including graphic novels and avoiding difficult to read/understand classics. A lot of the books I put on the list are ones that I wish I could teach but won’t be able to. So I’m glad I have the venue of summer reading in which to suggest the books, but I had having to require the reading.

    Thank you for your post- it was very well articulated!

  38. I LOVE reading. I want my students to love reading. I’m torn about summer reading requirements. I carefully chose the books on the list, trying to include a wide variety- including graphic novels and avoiding difficult to read/understand classics. A lot of the books I put on the list are ones that I wish I could teach but won’t be able to. So I’m glad I have the venue of summer reading in which to suggest the books, but I had having to require the reading.

    Thank you for your post- it was very well articulated!

  39. Thanks for commenting – I like your thoughts on Harry Potter, too – some books just wouldn’t like being analyzed to death. I’d love to see the list your fourth graders came up with, too!

  40. Thanks for commenting – I like your thoughts on Harry Potter, too – some books just wouldn’t like being analyzed to death. I’d love to see the list your fourth graders came up with, too!

  41. Re: Creating Summer Lists – from students

    The handout I gave to my students was organized much like yours, by genre, but I didn’t end up with time for them to discuss their recommendations. I love that idea!

  42. Re: Creating Summer Lists – from students

    The handout I gave to my students was organized much like yours, by genre, but I didn’t end up with time for them to discuss their recommendations. I love that idea!

  43. I do understand the time issue. As a fellow teacher, I can tell you there’s never enough time to cover everything I’d like to cover and still have reading time.

  44. I do understand the time issue. As a fellow teacher, I can tell you there’s never enough time to cover everything I’d like to cover and still have reading time.

  45. I teach in a private school that has a four year rotating curriculum. Last year when I was moved into the middle school from 5th grade I changed the summer reading so that the kids had a better list to choose from and only had to write one essay instead of the two or three boring essays they had done in the past. I also try to bridge the curriculum with the summer reading- including books that are related to the theme of the previous year and books that are related to the theme of the coming year. We always have SO much to do! I’m trying to learn everything I can about teaching using reading and writing workshop and implementing it in my classroom. I had some success this past year and look forward to doing better next year. My 7th & 8th graders love the read alouds and the freedom to read and write what they want, while still learning the skills the need to succeed in high school.

    I just learned of you from Donalyn Miller’s blog, The Book Whisperer, where she referenced this post on summer reading. In looking at your website, I became very interested in your new books that are coming out in the fall! Our school will be studying biomes this next year in science and it looks like The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z, Marty McGuire, Frog Princess, and Over and Under the Snow will all be wonderful books to integrate with our science studies. I look forward to getting them when they are released!

  46. I teach in a private school that has a four year rotating curriculum. Last year when I was moved into the middle school from 5th grade I changed the summer reading so that the kids had a better list to choose from and only had to write one essay instead of the two or three boring essays they had done in the past. I also try to bridge the curriculum with the summer reading- including books that are related to the theme of the previous year and books that are related to the theme of the coming year. We always have SO much to do! I’m trying to learn everything I can about teaching using reading and writing workshop and implementing it in my classroom. I had some success this past year and look forward to doing better next year. My 7th & 8th graders love the read alouds and the freedom to read and write what they want, while still learning the skills the need to succeed in high school.

    I just learned of you from Donalyn Miller’s blog, The Book Whisperer, where she referenced this post on summer reading. In looking at your website, I became very interested in your new books that are coming out in the fall! Our school will be studying biomes this next year in science and it looks like The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z, Marty McGuire, Frog Princess, and Over and Under the Snow will all be wonderful books to integrate with our science studies. I look forward to getting them when they are released!

  47. I so agree with you! The only time reading ever seemed like a chore was when I didn’t get to choose.
    I issued a summer reading challenge this year, but it’s free-form. Participants pick their own books and can change their list at any time.
    It seems like kids today (don’t I sound like an old fogie?!) have less free time than ever. We seem to have a passion to fill their days with assignments.

  48. I so agree with you! The only time reading ever seemed like a chore was when I didn’t get to choose.
    I issued a summer reading challenge this year, but it’s free-form. Participants pick their own books and can change their list at any time.
    It seems like kids today (don’t I sound like an old fogie?!) have less free time than ever. We seem to have a passion to fill their days with assignments.

  49. Thanks for stopping by from Donalyn’s blog – I just discovered her blog this year after I read THE BOOK WHISPERER and loved it so much. It sounds like you’ve done a great job striking a balance between school requirements and your students’ needs. I use a reading/writing workshop approach, too, and find it makes a huge difference in motivating kids to do authentic work!

    I’m so glad you think some of my books might work with your curriculum. If you decide to use GIANNA Z in connection with science, I want to let you know that the Watts Tree Finder is a great resource. It’s the same dichotomous key that the kids use to identify trees in the book, and it’s reasonably inexpensive, at $3.95/copy. My study guide for the book will be up on my website (www.katemessner.com) in August and has many more science connections. And by all means, if you decide to read it as a class, let me know if you’d like me to connect with your kids via Skype to answer questions after they read. My email is kmessner at katemessner dot com.

    Happy summer reading!

  50. Thanks for stopping by from Donalyn’s blog – I just discovered her blog this year after I read THE BOOK WHISPERER and loved it so much. It sounds like you’ve done a great job striking a balance between school requirements and your students’ needs. I use a reading/writing workshop approach, too, and find it makes a huge difference in motivating kids to do authentic work!

    I’m so glad you think some of my books might work with your curriculum. If you decide to use GIANNA Z in connection with science, I want to let you know that the Watts Tree Finder is a great resource. It’s the same dichotomous key that the kids use to identify trees in the book, and it’s reasonably inexpensive, at $3.95/copy. My study guide for the book will be up on my website (www.katemessner.com) in August and has many more science connections. And by all means, if you decide to read it as a class, let me know if you’d like me to connect with your kids via Skype to answer questions after they read. My email is kmessner at katemessner dot com.

    Happy summer reading!

  51. I think your self-selected summer reading list is just perfect – and I love that they can change their minds along the way, too. My to-read pile always shifts and changes depending on what shows up!

  52. I think your self-selected summer reading list is just perfect – and I love that they can change their minds along the way, too. My to-read pile always shifts and changes depending on what shows up!

  53. Kids have personalized visits with their guidance counselor, with the school nurse, etc. Why not with the librarian? At the beginning of the year, when a librarian is getting to know their students, they can hand out a questionnaire about reading habits: What is/are your favorite book(s)? Who is/are your favorite author(s)? What is/are your favorite genre(s)? It will help develop reader advisories. Before the summer, the librarian can set up one-on-one meetings with students and give them some personalized summer recommendations based on the students’ preferences, interests, and abilities and that are available at the local public library. Inform students how to borrow even more titles through interlibrary loan. Put a graphic organizer on the school website that students and their parents can access from any location. Students can then fill in brief details about a few of the books they read. Even better, make an online form for the students to submit the details immediately. For super-ambitious librarians, create a wiki and allow for (monitored) discussion of books. When the students return in the fall, the librarian can teach students to create their own booktalks to share with the rest of their class in the library.

  54. Kids have personalized visits with their guidance counselor, with the school nurse, etc. Why not with the librarian? At the beginning of the year, when a librarian is getting to know their students, they can hand out a questionnaire about reading habits: What is/are your favorite book(s)? Who is/are your favorite author(s)? What is/are your favorite genre(s)? It will help develop reader advisories. Before the summer, the librarian can set up one-on-one meetings with students and give them some personalized summer recommendations based on the students’ preferences, interests, and abilities and that are available at the local public library. Inform students how to borrow even more titles through interlibrary loan. Put a graphic organizer on the school website that students and their parents can access from any location. Students can then fill in brief details about a few of the books they read. Even better, make an online form for the students to submit the details immediately. For super-ambitious librarians, create a wiki and allow for (monitored) discussion of books. When the students return in the fall, the librarian can teach students to create their own booktalks to share with the rest of their class in the library.

  55. Of course you can quote me. By the way, I am currently watching A Midsummer Night’s Dream and still remember all of Hermia’s lines from the drama club production way back when I was in 7th grade!

  56. Of course you can quote me. By the way, I am currently watching A Midsummer Night’s Dream and still remember all of Hermia’s lines from the drama club production way back when I was in 7th grade!

  57. SUMMER READING

    WOO HOO!! Thanks to our wonderful Librarian, our middle school is throwing out the list of outdated books that we had required for the past 5 or 6 years and we are now adopting a summer reading program like the one you have described. I must admit that it was a hard sell but our librarian stuck to her guns and made it happen. I agree totally with your idea of what summer and pleasure reading should be. No Strings Attached- Bingo.

  58. SUMMER READING

    WOO HOO!! Thanks to our wonderful Librarian, our middle school is throwing out the list of outdated books that we had required for the past 5 or 6 years and we are now adopting a summer reading program like the one you have described. I must admit that it was a hard sell but our librarian stuck to her guns and made it happen. I agree totally with your idea of what summer and pleasure reading should be. No Strings Attached- Bingo.

  59. Re: SUMMER READING

    Oh that’s such good news! I’d love to hear your thoughts on this in September – I bet you’ll find more avid, happier readers returning to school.

  60. Re: SUMMER READING

    Oh that’s such good news! I’d love to hear your thoughts on this in September – I bet you’ll find more avid, happier readers returning to school.

  61. Re: SUMMER READING

    Hi Kate–

    What a fun thread. As a now-lapsed school librarian in central NJ, I worked for many years with the other librarians in my district to update our annotated summer reading lists on an ongoing basis. Kids were encouraged to read whatever they liked, but the list, in booklet form, helped them make great choices. My problem is with summer reading lists full of creaky titles that have been on the list since Year 1. Our lists were current, covered all interest areas, and helped kids find winners they would read and want to finish.

    These days, I’m working for author James Patterson, selecting and writing reviews for his fabulous new website, http://www.ReadKiddoRead.com. I recently posted 2 annotated summer reading lists on the Community part of the site. There are 100+ titles on each list (for grades preK-4 and 5 & up), and they’re pageturners that kids will love. (Or so I hope. I work with kid on an ongoing basis in several schools in NJ to test out new books and ascertain what works. I also read everything that moves.) Take a look–you’ll find some great books on the lists.

    Yes, kids need free reading in summer, but they also need an incentive to read. Public libraries all run wonderful summer reading programs that keep kids grabbing new books. The sad truth is, if kids stop reading in summer, they get rusty. If you’re an artist and you stop painting or a tennis player and you stop playing, you lose your edge. If we want kids to be readers, we need to give them constant incentives to read and develop skills to make them want to read more and more. So schools get nervous and think by assigning books, kids will practice more. They don’t always realize that to be really good at something, it helps to truly love what you’re doing. Kids read more when they find books that speak to them.

    Kids don’t automatically know which books they’ll love. They read what they hear their peers talking about, but many of them walk in to a library or bookstore and get what I call Library Mind Lock. “I don’t know what to read!” they wail. “There aren’t any good books here!” Which is why the world invented librarians and teachers and parents to help kids find books they will love. We book people are always looking for The Hook, the book or books that will turn a kid into a reader. So that summer reading list, if compiled with care and heart, can be a godsend to kids looking for a few good books.

    Judy Freeman
    Children’s Literature Consultant
    Author of Books Kids Will Sit Still For 3 (Libraries Unlimited)
    http://www.ReadKiddoRead.com
    http://www.JudyReadsBooks.com

  62. Re: SUMMER READING

    Hi Kate–

    What a fun thread. As a now-lapsed school librarian in central NJ, I worked for many years with the other librarians in my district to update our annotated summer reading lists on an ongoing basis. Kids were encouraged to read whatever they liked, but the list, in booklet form, helped them make great choices. My problem is with summer reading lists full of creaky titles that have been on the list since Year 1. Our lists were current, covered all interest areas, and helped kids find winners they would read and want to finish.

    These days, I’m working for author James Patterson, selecting and writing reviews for his fabulous new website, http://www.ReadKiddoRead.com. I recently posted 2 annotated summer reading lists on the Community part of the site. There are 100+ titles on each list (for grades preK-4 and 5 & up), and they’re pageturners that kids will love. (Or so I hope. I work with kid on an ongoing basis in several schools in NJ to test out new books and ascertain what works. I also read everything that moves.) Take a look–you’ll find some great books on the lists.

    Yes, kids need free reading in summer, but they also need an incentive to read. Public libraries all run wonderful summer reading programs that keep kids grabbing new books. The sad truth is, if kids stop reading in summer, they get rusty. If you’re an artist and you stop painting or a tennis player and you stop playing, you lose your edge. If we want kids to be readers, we need to give them constant incentives to read and develop skills to make them want to read more and more. So schools get nervous and think by assigning books, kids will practice more. They don’t always realize that to be really good at something, it helps to truly love what you’re doing. Kids read more when they find books that speak to them.

    Kids don’t automatically know which books they’ll love. They read what they hear their peers talking about, but many of them walk in to a library or bookstore and get what I call Library Mind Lock. “I don’t know what to read!” they wail. “There aren’t any good books here!” Which is why the world invented librarians and teachers and parents to help kids find books they will love. We book people are always looking for The Hook, the book or books that will turn a kid into a reader. So that summer reading list, if compiled with care and heart, can be a godsend to kids looking for a few good books.

    Judy Freeman
    Children’s Literature Consultant
    Author of Books Kids Will Sit Still For 3 (Libraries Unlimited)
    http://www.ReadKiddoRead.com
    http://www.JudyReadsBooks.com

  63. Re: SUMMER READING

    Great site, Judy! And great work that you’re doing there. (though I have to admit to being a little perplexed at seeing CATCHER IN THE RYE on a list for ages 9 and up! I wonder if down the road, you might want to consider separate lists for ages 9-12 and older teens.)

    Thanks for your comment!

  64. Re: SUMMER READING

    Great site, Judy! And great work that you’re doing there. (though I have to admit to being a little perplexed at seeing CATCHER IN THE RYE on a list for ages 9 and up! I wonder if down the road, you might want to consider separate lists for ages 9-12 and older teens.)

    Thanks for your comment!

  65. Kate — I agree with every syllable of what you wrote here. I think we make a lot more inroads by creating a culture of reading in our schools and laying the groundwork for its continuation into summer than we do by handing out lists and threats of how we’re going to assess summer reading. Much of what schools do in the name of supporting summer reading actually does more harm than good. I plead guilty to being a part of that in the past, and I’m trying to make up for it now.

    Still, I’m worried worried worried about the non-readers. We make progress during the school year, but in the summer they do not have a culture of readers and reading in their environments, and they slip backwards. Summer reading requirements don’t do anything for those kids except put them even more behind the others when school resumes.

    I’m so thankful that my own daughters read and read every day. Most afternoons you can find our family lounging in the backyard with books or Kindles.

    Thanks for this important post.

  66. Do teachers have a “reading list”? My son asked his fifth-graders to create one for him and then, during their free reading period, he’d read along with them, and he said it taught him a lot about what kids like to read as opposed to what he thought they ought to like to read, plus the books were fun. For my part, I edit a youth-written publication and I read some of the books the kids review simply based on their enthusiasm. (I think I need to pick up a Gallagher Girls book next.)

    But “required” reading? Eeesh. I agree with you. Requiring reading is a good thing but requiring specific books? No, for all the reasons you listed and because it would have been the quickest way to get me to put it off until a week before Labor Day.

    1. I love what your son asked his students to do! I share book recommendations with my 7th graders all the time, too – I love reading what they’re enjoying.

  67. You are so right about choice in reading and that one size cannot possibly fit all. Why is this difficult for so many to understand? We need to let go of the past. This is such an exciting time to be a literacy teacher. Thank you, Kate, for saying so well what many of us believe and for this opportunity to join our large community of educators in valuable conversations.